A little over a year ago we opened Common Ground Canopy Tours, which provided ziplining opportunities to the public. It was a bold move for a small non-profit, which for 20+ years sat in 30 acres of the beautiful Vermilion River Valley, to take on such an endeavor. Common Ground decided to “practice what it preached” and step out of its comfort zone in an effort to be more self-reliant and self-sustaining.
Not long before the completion of the Canopy Tour, I was hired to manage it. Having spent some time in the trees already as an ISA Certified Arborist, it seemed like a great fit. There were, however, some elements of stepping out of my own comfort zone. I would now be responsible for a group of professional guides, who are responsible for thousands of customers, who all deserve the best experience we can give. Speaking comfortably, honestly and informatively to our guides, groups of customers, and larger gatherings at events (or the occasional unforgiving TV camera) had become part of my job. I’m no longer a lone guy high in a tree enjoying the view, but now working with others, educating them on the benefits of spending time in the tree tops. That includes inviting them to see the world from that perspective, if only for a couple of hours.
On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to field questions about our tour, property and Adult Conscious Living and Youth Programs. One question that I’m asked regularly is “What is the best season to go ziplining?” As this question sinks in, I’m sure my eyes glaze over slightly as mental images from the past year replay in my mind’s eye, and I think “good question”. The truth is, that right along with the changing of the seasons, the tour changes. And it changes in spectacular ways. Let me explain.
Spring is a time when any degree above 32° feels like t-shirt weather, and you start to remember that the sun does actually produce warmth. There’s usually a small fire burning in the Welcome Center’s cast iron wood stove to take off the chill. The sky is clear and bright blue. Slowly from tree top to ground, buds and flowers start to pop. The air smells fresh and you think “It’s going to be a good year”.
The property and the ziplines really start to buzz. You can hear the children who attend Earth Camp laughing and having fun. The lush greenery that surrounds you, gives the sense that you’re on a private adventure with friends, family, co-workers, or sometimes complete strangers who are quickly becoming friends. Any fear of being high in the trees melts away. You feel immersed in nature, which reminds you that you should start to do this more often.
The summer sun slowly gives way to cooler temperatures and once again there is a blaze of color in the trees and in the Welcome Center’s wood burning stove. The bridges, platforms and ground below you are dotted with fallen leaves. The reflection of the canopy in the river, sunlight on the platforms, and foliage in full color are a scene that seems painted. In addition, the forest is active with inhabitants preparing for winter.
Few choose to experience the canopy tour in winter; I can tell you it’s absolutely beautiful. After a snowstorm, the quiet and solace you find in the trees is therapeutic. A blanket of white covers everything from the highest points on the tour. The view that was a curtain of green in the summer is now wide open to the surrounding farmer’s fields. The sun makes everything sparkle. Animal tracks on the bridges tell you who else enjoys a nice winter walk. As you zip into the final platform, the smoke coming from the Welcome Center chimney promises a warm end to your day.
It’s been incredibly rewarding for me to experience, and be a part of this growth in Common Ground. I enjoy meeting our participants, sharing the treetops and experiencing ziplining with them. In addition, it is enjoyable to reassure them and answer questions.
“The best season to go ziplining?” Maybe it’s spring… or summer, autumn or winter. It’s whatever season you need an adventure. Or whatever season you need Common Ground to help you realize you can do something that you may not have thought you could. We invite you to realize your potential at Common Ground Canopy Tours.